Horse Racing

Epsom Derby Protests: Nineteen Animal Rights Activists Arrested Ahead of the Race

Derby Festival 2023 - Derby Day - Epsom Downs Racecourse
Photo by Icon sport

In a pre-emptive move, police have apprehended 19 individuals suspected of planning to “cancel or severely delay” the Epsom Derby, a prestigious horse race, as part of a demonstration organized by animal rights activists advocating veganism. The arrests come according to the recent High Court injunction prohibiting protests on the racetrack.

Why Are Animal Rights Protesting Against Epsom Derby?

Surrey Police confirmed that 11 arrests were made at residential addresses in Mitcham and Byfleet during the early hours, while an additional eight individuals were apprehended after their vehicle was intercepted in Burgh Heath around 10:20 am. All those arrested are in police custody for conspiracy to commit public nuisance.

The environmentalist group Animal Rising has announced its intention to disrupt the race, citing concerns over animal welfare and pointing to previous disruptions during the Grand National in April.

The Jockey Club, which owns Epsom Downs, sought and obtained the High Court injunction, alleging that the group explicitly intended to breach security measures at the racetrack.

Heightened Security Measures at Epsom Downs Racecourse Ahead of the Race

As we mentioned already, by 11 am on Saturday, 19 arrests had been made in connection with the planned disruption of the Epsom Derby Festival. Superintendent Michael Hodder emphasized the police’s commitment to ensuring public safety and preventing criminal activity.

He stated, “We have been clear in our approach that criminal activity will not be tolerated at the Epsom Derby Festival.” Authorities have heightened security measures at the racecourse, with a significant police presence and extensive briefings for officers.

Animal Rising Behind the Planned Protests

Animal Rising spokesperson Orla Coghlan outlined the group’s plans, stating that they intended to hold a peaceful protest outside the racecourse while also engaging in direct action to protect the participating horses. Coghlan expressed concerns about the welfare of racehorses, claiming that a horse dies every other day in British racing.

Unfortunately, just one day after the protest at Grand National that we mentioned earlier, another horse lost its life, so the fact that the animal rights groups keep protesting these events is hardly surprising.

In response to criticisms from the British Horseracing Association and trainers who attributed the death of the horse Hill Sixteen during the Grand National to Animal Rising protesters, Coghlan remarked, “It’s quite horrific for the British Horseracing Association to try and deflect any blame for the death of Hill Sixteen because we know that every year two to three horses die in the Grand National.”

Peaceful Protests Allowed at Epsom Derby

Surrey Police reiterated their stance on protests, stating that they support peaceful demonstrations but will not tolerate criminal activity or risks to public safety. Furthermore, they emphasized that any breach of the court order could result in contempt of court proceedings, leading to fines or imprisonment.

The Jockey Club expressed concerns about the potential risks posed to participants, racegoers, and horses but acknowledged the right to peaceful protest. To facilitate the demonstrators, the club designated an area near the racecourse entrance for Animal Rising to conduct their protest.

Epsom Derby Arrests
Animal rights protest group Animal Rising in carts outside the entrance to the racecourse during Derby Day of the 2023 Derby Festival at Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom. Picture date: Saturday June 3, 2023. – Photo by Icon sport

The Epsom Derby, a renowned horse racing event, is closely monitored by authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of all involved. Despite the arrests and the High Court ban, the race is expected to proceed as planned.

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About the author


Andrew Shassetz is a seasoned freelance writer who combines his academic background from the University of Alaska, where he studied Journalism, with a genuine love for horse racing. Following a significant life-changing accident, Andrew courageously shifted his career path from mainstream journalism to full-time freelancing.

Today, he passionately delves into the thrilling world of horse racing and sports. He delivers compelling, insightful commentaries that resonate with readers worldwide, redefining sports journalism with his unique blend of personal experience and professional expertise.